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Politics in Baseball?: MLB takes action against discrimination

BOSTON, MA – JULY 24: The Black Lives Matter Major League Baseball logo is painted as a stencil on the pitchers mound during a pre-game ceremony before the Opening Day game between the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles on July 24, 2020 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The 2020 season had been postponed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

On April 2nd, 2021, Major League Baseball announced that they would move their All Star Game out of Atlanta, Georgia. This decision caused both admiration and outrage toward the league due to the unprecedented nature of MLB’s actions. The announcement followed the passing of Georgia legislature that significantly restricted access to voting by absentee ballot, a law that many believe “unfairly targets voters of color” and “seeks to make voting harder for the state’s large Black population.” MLB’s decision is a culmination of the past decade in sports—in which players and now leagues have taken a stand against racial injustice—as now action has finally been taken in support of a political cause. The widespread question remains, though: do these issues have a place in sports?

In MLB’s official statement regarding the relocation of their All Star Game, Commissioner Rob Manfred said that the decision “demonstrates [MLB’s] values as a sport”, and that MLB “proudly used its platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process.” Though many fans have expressed their dissent toward the decision via social media, the league’s use of its large platform to promote change is exactly what needs to be done to achieve reform. Following the period of nationwide civil unrest that followed the murder of George Floyd last spring, many professional sports teams and organizations advocated for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and their messages. While these unprecedented messages were an excellent starting point on the path to achieving significant change and reform, MLB’s solidarity with BLM was only one step in the right direction. To truly achieve change, MLB needed to take action, which is exactly what they did through their relocation of the All Star Game. This marks one of the first times tangible action has been taken against discriminatory behavior in sports history, and demonstrates MLB’s persistence toward helping the BLM cause and the fight against racism. 

MLB’s decision to move the All Star Game shows the place that social justice has in sports. The best use of power is to create positive change; MLB has achieved just that by using their platform to fight against an issue that plagues this country. Many criticize the combination of sports and politics, and rightfully so—politics can be a very dividing force between people. Yet politics and social justice are not one-and-the-same. MLB acted in support of basic human rights in an attempt to promote unity and equality, not in advocacy of any controversial political figure. People should admire and mirror the MLB’s efforts rather than criticize them. Though it is unclear whether other organizations will follow suit with tangible efforts, MLB’s decision cements the place of social justice within sports. Their actions begin to normalize large organizations using power to work toward social justice, a truly commendable feat. 

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